So you’ve come back from vacation or many months away and you’re about to pour some water for the coffee maker when all of the sudden you notice a foul smell coming from the water in the sink. Why does it reek? It seems to fill up your whole house. Where is it coming from? Is the water safe to drink?
This issue happens quite frequently in homes both old and new throughout the Marco Island, Naples, Bonita Springs, and Estero areas. It can be especially troublesome to those who rent homes to seasonal visitors or vacationers as it does not leave the best first impression!
Luckily, there are some things you can try yourself to troubleshoot this unfortunately common issue. In this article, Halo Home Watch will walk you through the process of determining where this unpleasant aroma is coming from, and how you can take steps to resolve the issue. We will have your home odor free in no time! The first step is to identify what the actual problem is.
There are two main causes for the rotten egg smell permeating through your house. Before you can fix the problem, you first have to identify which of the two caused it. To do this, you have to ask yourself a simple question: is your problem pervasive throughout the home or is it isolated to one room?
It’s a simple question, but isn’t necessarily so simple to answer. Smells tend to get “stuck” in our noses, making it hard to actually identify if what we’re smelling is still around us, or if we’re still smelling the remnants from the previous room. Therefore, let’s start with the room where you first noticed the smell and perform something called the “water cup test.”
The water cup test is very simple; just take a clean cup and fill it with water from the water source you noticed that noxious smell from, such as the kitchen sink. Then take the filled cup to an area of the house that does not have the smell, preferably fresh air, like the back patio or front porch. Once you have cleaned your olfactory senses from that fume, smell the water in the cup. What do you smell? Anything?
If the water smells clean, then congratulations you know it is not the water itself. Then why does the water smell foul when you turn on the faucet? In this case, the odor is coming from the drain or garbage disposal, which are the typical culprits. However, if your water still smells foul, the next step is more complicated. You can check the news to see if there are any issues in your area that you need to be aware of before putting in unnecessary effort.
If your water cup test came back stinky, one of the remaining possibilities is water supply itself. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to be aware of any news of affected water supplies in your area. If your water source is from a private well then there might be some cause for concern.
For example, Collier County (Marco Island, Naples, etc.) clients in particular, you’re in luck. Whether your water comes from the city or from a well, they are both regulated by the county. Collier County has a Wellfield Protection Program that regularly monitors the quality of the well water in the area. Also, different areas derive their water from different sources. About 75% of Marco Island’s water supply comes from rain water. This reduces the risk of any cross contamination from sewage lines or pollution that might enter via rivers or streams. Therefore, odds are your water is fine.
The first step you take to fix the smell varies based on the outcome of your water cup test. If the water smelled clean after moving rooms, then the smell can be fixed by simply cleaning the drain and garbage disposal of your sink to remove the buildup causing the smell.
However, if the water still smelled, the cause could be one of two things: your hot water heater or the water itself. Recent headlines have brought more awareness to the condition of our water supply. However, typically the issue is not the water itself. The US has strict clean water regulations and, should something go wrong, your state/county will announce a boil notice. A boil notice would require that any publicly supplied water be heated up and brought to a boil in order to kill any unhealthy bacteria in the water.
Most likely if the odor is coming from multiple sources, the culprit is the water lines (particularly the hot water line). If the water heater tank hasn’t been drained in a while, there might be some hydrogen sulfide build up in the tank. This can cause a rotten-egg like scent to permeate throughout the home. The solution is to drain the water heater tank. It takes some effort, but should be done regularly as part of your scheduled home maintenance.
When the sink hasn’t been used in a while, such as when you’ve been away from home for a while, bacteria that causes a musty smelling odor will build up in the garbage disposal. Then, when you turn on the faucet, the water pushes that smelly vapor out of the drain and into the air, giving the impression that the water smells.
All you need to do is use some soap and cold water to clean the drain a bit. If there’s a lot of buildup, you can also add a little Clorox bleach and take a scrub brush to it to make it extra clean. Let the water run for a couple minutes and the smell should go away.
However, if the water still smelled in your water cup test, cleaning your sink won’t solve the problem. You’ll need to do the more involved task of draining your hot water heater.
To get started draining your hot water heater, you only need a few simple supplies. Roll up your sleeves and check out the video below for some tips on how to drain the water heater tank! The type of water heater tank may vary from the one that’s in the video but the order of operations we listed below is the same.
Turn off the heat source to the tank
Shut off the water supply to the water heater tank
Connect a water hose to the drain valve
Lead the hose to a drain or the lawn
Release the pressure valve on the water heater tank or open the hot water side of one of the sinks in your home
Using the screwdriver open the drainage valve
Let the water drain (be very careful as the water will be extremely hot)
Once it’s empty close off the drainage valve
Close off the pressure valve
Ten open back up the water supply to the water heat tank
Finally, once it’s full, turn the heat source back on the desired temperature
The whole process above will take around 2 hours, depending on the size of your tank and whether or not you have all the supplies. What do you do in the meantime as you’re resolving your particular scenario? Is the foul water safe to drink and use?
According to the EPA you are most likely safe to use the water. The EPA has what’s called Secondary Standards. These are standards that basically say what levels are okay when it comes to the aesthetic of the water. It goes over substances that may cause somewhat unpleasant factors in the water that may affect the taste, color, or smell.
Basically, you’ll be safe drinking the water as long as it comes from a municipal water supply, even if it smells foul. If your water comes from a private well, however, you might want to get it tested before drinking it.
If after going through every step the issue still persists, you should get the water tested. Your local home store such as Home Depot or Lowes will usually have water test kits that you can use yourself. Typically, they include strips that change colors based on the existence of specific contaminants. While easy to use, they aren’t terribly accurate, but they’re good enough to tell if the water is highly dangerous. Just be sure that you are exhausting all the troubleshooting steps we’ve gone over here before you invest in things such as a water filter for the home.
Nobody wants their house to smell like rotten eggs. If you smell noxious fumes the first time you run your water after a long absence, don’t panic. Most likely it’s the buildup of bacteria in the kitchen sink; check with the water cup test. If the water does not have an odor, just clean the drain and run it for twenty or so minutes. If the water smells, check the news for any information about contaminants in your area. The next step is to drain the hot water heater, which is a tad trickier, so watch that video and go over each of those steps! Finally, if that does not work, test your water.
Some of these steps may take some time to do, so you may be wondering if it’s safe to drink your water in the meantime. If your water is coming from a municipal water supply, strict regulations make sure that the water is safe to drink. In that case, you’re fine to drink the water as long as there wasn’t a notice warning you against it when you checked the news. On the other hand, if your water comes from a private well, the quality of the water isn’t as strictly controlled. You might be better off waiting until the issue is fixed before drinking your water.
When gone for several weeks or several months issues like this can happen. Therefore, it is imperative to have a Home Watch Company caring for your home while you are away. Your Home Watch provider is there to address and prevent issues like this. So, no matter who you use, make sure they know the above! If you have additional questions or feedback please let us know down below. Cheers from the Halo Home Watch team!
“Why Does My Water Smell like Sewage?” Waterlogic, 1 Mar. 2019, https://www.waterlogic.com/en-us/resources/water-problems/why-does-my-water-smell-like-sewage/.
“Eliminate That Rotten Egg Smell From Your Water.” Terry’s Plumbing, https://www.superterry.com/eliminate-rotten-egg-smell-water/.
Miller, Tessa. “Afraid of Contamination? How to Test the Water in Your House.” Lifehacker, Lifehacker, 24 June 2013, https://lifehacker.com/afraid-of-contamination-how-to-test-the-water-in-your-5927732.
“Secondary Drinking Water Standards: Guidance for Nuisance Chemicals.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 8 Mar. 2017, https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/secondary-drinking-water-standards-guidance-nuisance-chemicals.